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The Tide Watchers: A Novel

The Tide Watchers: A Novel

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The Tide Watchers: A Novel

valutazioni:
4/5 (4 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
587 pagine
9 ore
Pubblicato:
Jun 30, 2015
ISBN:
9780062379146
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

In the tradition of Jennifer Robson, comes this compelling debut that weaves the fascinating story of a young woman who must risk her life as a spy to help stop Napoleon’s invasion of Great Britain in the winter of 1803.

Though the daughter of an English baronet, Lisbeth has defied convention by eloping to France with her new husband. But when he breaks her heart by abandoning her, she has nowhere to turn and must work in a local tavern. Her only hope for the future is to be reunited with her young son who is being raised by her mother-in law.

A seasoned spy known by his operatives as Tidewatcher, Duncan apprenticed under Lisbeth’s father and pledged to watch over his mentor’s only daughter while he searches the Channel region for evidence that Bonaparte has built a fleet to invade Britain. But unpredictable Lisbeth challenges his lifelong habit of distance.

Eccentric, brilliant American inventor Robert Fulton is working on David Bushnell’s “turtle”—the first fully submersible ship—when he creates brand-new torpedo technology, which he plans to sell to the French Navy. But when his relationship with Bonaparte sours, he accepts Tidewatcher’s help to relocate to the French side of the Channel, but he refuses to share his invention. With an entire army encamped in the region, blocking off all access, Tidewatcher must get that submersible, along with someone who knows how to use it, to uncover Bonaparte’s great secret.

When Lisbeth is asked to pose as a housekeeper and charm Fulton so she can learn to use the submersible before the invasion fleet sails, she will be forced to sacrifice herself for her country—but is she willing to sacrifice her heart when she’s already lost it to another…?

A fast-paced, deeply-researched, and richly imagined novel, The Tide Watchers explores a long-hidden, chapter of Bonaparte’s history.

Pubblicato:
Jun 30, 2015
ISBN:
9780062379146
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Lisa Chaplin has published twenty contemporary romances under a pseudonym, but the publication of The Tide Watchers marks her mainstream debut. Lisa, her husband, and their three children currently reside in her home country of Australia.


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Anteprima del libro

The Tide Watchers - Lisa Chaplin

Man

CHAPTER 1

Étaples, France (by the English Channel)

August 16, 1802

COMMANDER, WE GOT ANOTHER semaphore message from the ship."

The muffled words were a shade too loud, proud, and English for their current position on the Étaples-Boulogne road. King’s Man and unlisted ship’s commander Duncan Aylsham parted the curtain of the hired coach and let the window right down. His skinny, freckle-faced cabin boy, Mark, met Duncan’s quelling frown with a grin. Instead of knocking on the coach roof from his seat on the box as his commander had ordered, he’d leaped down and was hanging monkeylike on the running board of the moving coach. His eyes, blue as the summer sky behind, laughed too; even his shock of spiky red hair glistened as if in comical argument. The damn boy knew the protocol, the way to act and speak, but never did unless it was forced from him.

"What did you say? Who am I? And what country are we currently journeying in?" Aylsham demanded in French, in a tone calculated to dampen pretension.

"Lor’ love yer, monsieur, I tol’ yer, I got me cover. Mark switched to French while managing to keep his Cockney accent. Duncan longed to grab one of the ears sticking out from his head and pull it. I ain’t Mark Henshaw, I’m Marcus René Balfour, coach boy from the slums o’ Paris. Ye’re nobody’s commander, an’ you ain’t got no ship. You’re a gennelman of means—a Frog gennelman. But what’s the point in wastin’ time on the lies when there ain’t a body about to appreciate it?"

Duncan spoke through gritted teeth. "You obviously do not get it, or you wouldn’t half scream the word semaphore. And once you start using an identity, never leave it until it’s dangerous or no longer needed. No self-respecting agent would dream of being so stupid."

The boy’s face fell to ludicrous proportions.

This is your first mission, and it will be your last with me. Duncan reinforced the lesson in icy tones. I don’t reward disobedience and insubordination.

The boy stammered, "But, monsieur, I didn’t . . . you know I’m good—"

What you’ll be is thrashed before you’re much older, boy, unless you respect your betters and obey, Second Lieutenant Burton growled from the box in flawless French.

Mark stiffened and muttered a sulky apology beneath his breath. If there was one person who did frighten him, it was the stiff-rumped Burton, who no doubt would thrash him . . . later.

Not even Burton would dare to beat Mark when their commander was near. Abusive sailors were sent back to England without pay or recommendation, a semaphore message sent ahead informing Duncan’s superior officer so any complaints were cut off at the feet. Duncan might be irritated by Mark to the point of thinking about whipping him, but he’d never do it—even if the boy deserved it all too often. Naval discipline was harsh and inflexible; but they weren’t in the Royal Navy, and Duncan’s title of commander was a courtesy. Otherwise Mark’s back would be flayed to shreds by now, his spirit cowed. What would an intimidated Mark look like? He’d never find out . . . no matter how tempting it was. Mark was a child.

Mark had been discovered picking pockets on a London street and was whisked to Whitehall before a local street gang could adopt him, and had been assigned to Duncan. The look in the boy’s eyes when they’d met that day in London—the fear and the defiance—had sung a familiar song. Two peas from the same pod. Brothers from a different mother, the same kind of father: lessons learned at the end of a fist, or the point of a whip.

"You’re not good yet. We’re in a perilous situation, so for God’s sake practice self-discipline. No one can become an effective team member—or leader—without it. Any member of my crew is sent home without a recommendation for further work unless they display obedience and respect—and don’t think you can get around that. You’ve worn out your chances. Do exactly as you’re told, without argument, or you’re gone."

"Oui, monsieur. I’m sorry, monsieur."

Duncan almost laughed at the boy’s hanging head, the chastened tone—now in perfect, fluid French. The boy wanted to be a King’s Man that much. Now, unless Le Breton—Duncan remembered Burton’s cover name just in time—decoded the flags, I won’t hear it from you.

Mark nodded. "Oui, monsieur, I’m sorry, monsieur." Even his obedience managed to sound cheeky, a mystery Duncan, cut from another cloth, would never be able to unravel.

What’s the message, Le Breton? he called, satisfied the boy understood he wasn’t in charge of the mission.

In a long-suffering tone, Burton said, He has it, monsieur, word for word. He hastened to add, I didn’t teach him.

Duncan almost chuckled at the thought of it. Of all his crew, only First Lieutenant Flynn was more enamored of the rulebook or versed in respect for his betters than Burton. It’s as well I believe you. Speaking in harsh tones to inferiors kept order on a mission; but after almost a year on this one bloody mission, both order and patience were in short supply. Six months they’d trawled through Paris, which was barely any cleaner or more civilized now than during the hideous Reign of Terror. The past five months they’d combed the cities and towns of France, performing sundry missions for the highly secret British Alien Office as they went. But now, even he found it hard to find reasons to tell his loyal crew that Eddie’s daughter was still alive. Both Burton and Flynn had told him the men were muttering about going home to their families. One or two men were bordering on mutiny.

Duncan had no family to go home to and owed Eddie too much to give up. A month ago he’d sent the worst two mutterers back to England on half pay, with no recommendation for further missions. The other mutterers were confined to the ship, with the austere Flynn in charge. Now Duncan had only the stoic Burton—and, reduced to desperation, Mark—on this final leg of the mission: the Channel Coast, the last stop before they returned to England. The boy had been begging and bragging of his abilities for months. How much of a disaster could it be?

Not quite a disaster, but no matter how hard he or Burton made it for the boy, the brat adored every moment of the experience. The boy reveled in showing off his fluent French—how he’d learned it was a mystery he wasn’t sharing—and showing off other knowledge he’d gleaned by illegitimate means. Since joining the crew he’d been shooed away from beneath the ship’s forecastle too many times to count. Fifty, sixty times he’d been caught memorizing the movement of the coder’s arms and position of the flags that made up a letter, number, or a coded sentence. Burton and Flynn, his best coders, had thrashed the boy until a furious Duncan had forbidden it, but the little blighter only ever said, Me da could show you lot a fing or free about a good whippin’, and laughed as he danced away.

If Mark had been born in France, no doubt he’d have led the rabble to the Bastille. Burton would have been one of the valiant guards that fell at the gates, fighting for his king—and the chalk and cheese of Duncan’s current team made it bloody exhausting to be the commander.

Tiring of the wait, Mark jumped into the conversation, but kept low. Thank God for that. Even in Napoleon’s France you never knew who was listening, or where. A wrong word and anyone could end up in prison to rot, or with their head lying beneath the guillotine. Memories of the Terror were slow to fade, especially from the minds of ambitious men, or spiteful women—and none were in greater danger than agents from the British Alien Office. Mr. Zephyr sent the message, monsieur. His words were subdued, even a little respectful.

Duncan held in the laugh at the awed tone in which the boy gave their spymaster’s code name, and the Mr. in front. William Windham, code name Zephyr, didn’t give a damn if he was respected or not. One simply obeyed, because one didn’t dare to do otherwise.

During his few weeks of basic training, Mark had made the mistake of demanding while in Windham’s hearing, I want a code name like what the ‘nob’ agents got.

A haughty face, a single lifted brow, and the belligerence stuttered to silence.

"Code names are for those who have a position to uphold, a great deal to lose if they’re discovered. You are bloody lucky to be here. If you don’t like the way I conduct this office, go back to your East London stews." With that, Windham had turned his back on the boy.

Odd, how three sentences had done what months of thrashings and threats had not. Mark held a passionate admiration for, and morbid fear of angering, his spymaster.

Duncan had once been that boy with his first spymaster, William Wickham, now retired to Ireland. And with Eddie Sunderland. Always Eddie.

Leaning back against the badly sprung squabs of the coach, Duncan listened to Mark’s bragging tone with half an ear, wishing the day wasn’t so damned hot. He felt as if he was breathing in wet heat. If he could shrug off his jacket, as he would back on board ship—but his current cover was that of an up-and-coming businessman too conscious of his social position to ever let his inferiors see him en déshabillé.

"What? he barked on catching a word. Say that again!"

The boy refrained from rolling his eyes this time. Mr. Zephyr said that bonkers Lord Camelford’s on the lam again. Mr. Pitt, ’e’s right upset about his cousin lobbin’ off. Wants ’im found afore he kills some other poor blighty. Ought to ’ave been put in the Fleet years ago, or Bedlam, more like. Leastways, you’re to look out for ’im. They fink ’e’s headin’ this way.

Not that, the other, he snapped, but taking that piece of information into account. Bloody Camelford, what’s he up to this time? Mark’s right, he ought to be locked up.

After being tossed off a few ships in his early naval career, Thomas Pitt, known as the Mad Baron, had stalked his former captain and caned him half to death on a London street in revenge for administering correct naval discipline. He’d been ousted from the navy for shooting a lieutenant for insubordination; but because of his rank, and being first cousin to Prime Minister Pitt—not to mention a great deal of hush money paid to Camelford’s victims, or family—there had been no further punishment. Since then he’d been involved in two public duels, and probably several more Duncan hadn’t heard about. Just four months ago he’d been deported from France for a spoken intention to kill First Consul Bonaparte. Boney’s men had found him in Calais, confiscated his faux travel pass, saw him onto a packet for Dover, and made it clear to the British government that he was to never return to France.

Ten to one he was planning to kill Boney for the public humiliation to the great name of Pitt. In Camelford’s mind, the Pitt family could only find their equal in the king and God himself (and being German Stuart descendants, mere Scots royalty, maybe even the king didn’t rate).

So now, as well as trying to find the runaway girl and learn what her husband was up to, Duncan had an insane baron to add to the list. Wonderful. It seemed the aristocracy couldn’t keep their family members under control.

Mark’s loud expulsion of breath brought him back to the words that had grabbed his wandering attention in the first place—and he noted with satisfaction that Mark had at last begun to use the mint paste he’d given the boy to clean his teeth and mouth. Mr. Zephyr, he said—pause, for dramatic effect—‘Letter from Bertie Greatheed. He says you might find Eddie’s girl in Abbeville, working in a tavern on the Amiens-Calais road.’

Duncan’s heart sank. Turn the coach south, and spring ’em. I want to be in Abbeville by morning.

CHAPTER 2

Abbeville, France (Channel Coast)

August 17, 1802

THE SMELLS OF WILTED flowers, sweating cheese, salted pork, and overripe fruit hung in the air, a pall over the Tuesday farmers’ markets. Stallholders swatted at flies, slow and indolent. The obligatory tricolor ribbons pinned to the front of each stall lifted a little now and then in a puff of air coming from the Somme: a tired nod to vive la Revolution.

Though perspiration beaded her back, Lisbeth Delacorte kept her cloak around the telltale checkered dress and cast-off boots. Taking the path behind the southern end of the Place du Marché-au-Blé, she kept her head down, her strides fast.

Here comes the English whore, off to ply her wares again.

Every Tuesday and Friday when Lisbeth passed her stall, the woman said the same words, and she was tired of running past. Tossing back her hood, Lisbeth stared at her tormentor. Iron-gray hair, ruddy cheeks in a square face, a sacking dress and mobcap tied beneath her chin. The tricolor ribbon pinned to her breast wasn’t for show. The Revolution had been good to her. The former peasant now held the largest pork stall in Abbeville, and she never tired of crowing over less fortunate neighbors.

The woman’s cheeks darkened at Lisbeth’s unexpected challenge. Lower your eyes, you haughty bitch. With the flat of her blade she swatted at a mouse nibbling on a pork slice. With a squeak, it toppled off the stall, landing at her feet. "Your father’s not worth a sou here. Citoyen Delacorte should throw you out of France and wed a decent Frenchwoman to raise his boy."

Lisbeth only laughed. How she was no longer afraid she didn’t know. Do you mean yourself, madame? Would you take on the task of living with my husband for my son’s sake, or would you perhaps send your daughter?

At that the woman murmured something and made a little, stealthy sign of the cross. Though the people of Abbeville clung to the old respect for the Delacorte name, the gentleman her husband could have become had vanished when he was fifteen.

A hereditary knight of noble lineage, Châtelain Edmond Delacorte was one of a hundred thousand victims of Mademoiselle Death. False information had been given to the Committee of Public Safety by a neighbor jealous of Delacorte’s wealth, position, and pretty wife. Two days after his father’s death, Alain came home to find his mother raped and beaten senseless by the same neighbor. Killing the man with his bare hands only fed Alain’s fury and need for vengeance on enemies both visible and invisible.

How can one boy-man take retribution on a nation collapsing in on itself, a voracious people feeding on bloodlust and power, and remain sane? How had Lisbeth not once noticed during the weeks they’d met in secret? How had she not seen the violence and hatred in the romantic, poetic émigré until it was far too late?

Because I was seventeen and stupid, rebelling against Papa’s arranged marriage for me. Because Alain had lived a life of romance, excitement, and danger, and I’d barely left Norfolk.

She couldn’t let pity for his suffering change her determination. Getting her son away from Alain was all. It was everything. Alain was too damaged to raise a child; so he couldn’t frighten her off or isolate her enough to make her go. Until he killed her she’d never stop trying to take Edmond back.

Seeing the mouse creeping away, the stallholder kicked it. Lisbeth crossed in front of her, picked up the wriggling creature, and walked on, ignoring the jeering laughter.

When she reached the southern edge of the square, a lady approached from the western side of the stalls—a housekeeper for a good family judging by her cotton dress, poke bonnet, and the boy trotting beside her, carrying a laden basket. The moment she saw Lisbeth, the lady lifted her skirts and swept past as though she carried a contagion.

Only a year ago, that woman would have curtsied to her. A year ago Lisbeth would also have turned from a woman of ill repute. Now she knew tavern wench didn’t always mean harlot, even in a notorious place like Le Boeuf. Sometimes it just meant hunger and desperation—and Alain was not the gentleman his father had been.

Despite her gentle caresses, the mouse quivered in her hand, its little eyes terrified. It cringed when her finger moved. A kindred soul in her hand: it also understood that a caress could be a prelude to pain.

She crossed the old stone footbridge across the Somme and laid the little creature in the nearest garden. Be safe, and no more pork from that stall for you, she whispered as it vanished beneath crunching leaves fallen from the amber tree above.

She walked on, shaking her head and laughing. Reduced to talking to a mouse . . . laughing by herself. If Alain saw her, he’d have her put in an asylum.

Tavern Le Boeuf, Abbeville, France

It was her.

In an overwarm taproom filled with men yelling, singing, and groping the laughing waitresses, Duncan sat at an unpolished table in a corner far from the fire. Snuffing the candle or keeping his hood over his face would only draw attention, so he sat at the farthest corner from its muted light, sprawled across the crude bench seat as if sleeping.

He still felt naked. A man couldn’t be alone here without people noticing. Almost all the girls had approached him about food or drink, or offering sex. Before long one man pointed at him with a nod, frowning, and then another.

When the next girl approached him, he paid for half an hour with her.

When they reached the room, he said softly, Take a rest. The girl, tall and buxom, gave him a half-pouting smile of regret, and he felt his body respond. In other circumstances, he’d have relieved the tension; but after all he’d been through to find her, he wasn’t letting his target out of sight. He climbed out the window, down the ivy, and watched her through a window.

It seemed appropriate.

When the half hour was done, he climbed back up the ivy, paid the sleeping girl, returned downstairs, and asked for ale. Keeping on target. Watching her. Waiting.

The match to the kit-cat Eddie gave him was exact. The porcelain skin was touched by a dusting of freckles on her nose and cheeks, a giveaway to her tomboy childhood in the sun. The unique stripes of blond-and-honey hair were woven into a braid. Eddie said her unusual hair was the bane of her life, but it became a different hue in each light, glossy and changeable, more fascinating than one perfect shade. Skin flushed with hard work highlighted her cheekbones and brightened her slightly slanted green eyes, showing up laughter lines. Though she’d barely smiled beyond a polite stretching of lips, it was the tip-tilted, charming smile of her mother, giving an impression of crookedness that wasn’t in her bone structure. She was by no means a classic beauty, yet he’d remember her face long after the current diamonds of London society became fat, overdressed breeders of the next generation of entitled brats.

He shrugged. What he thought of the girl wasn’t important. He’d found her. He’d talk to her. Then his responsibility ended.

Watching her, he thanked God he wouldn’t have to hide the truth of her occupation from Eddie. Le Boeuf promised willing girls, but she avoided groping hands, wouldn’t sit on anyone’s lap, and returned coins pushed at her by randy men. She wore an apron tied loosely over the tight, red-checkered uniform. A ruff of tucked-in lace hid her cleavage. She used a multitude of pins to push back rebel locks of hair falling in her face. Neat, modest, severe, she worked twice as hard as any girl in the room, never heading upstairs with a happy customer.

He might be relieved, but the men she served were less happy. Bitch, one man nearby snarled when he groped her, and she tipped ale into his lap.

"Pardon, Monsieur LeClerc, the jug was overfull, she said in flawless French, her tone cool. I will pour you another, on the house."

On your wages, Elise, an older man shouted from the taps, as sulky as his thwarted patron. Duncan frowned. She was called Elise now? Had she become so French in a year?

The girl poured the glass, keeping the jug over the patron’s lap the entire time. The sulky patron didn’t move, didn’t say a word. The girl had spirit, he’d give her that.

Near closing time he made his way out, keeping to the wall, listening as he went. Because of the singing, slapping, rattling of crockery, and general talk, he heard only snatches.

"My daughter’s as ugly as my wife. Le bon Dieu only knows how . . ."

If Fouchard’s guillotined, his widow . . . the farm . . .

Fulton’s new inventions . . . Fouché— The men stopped talking as Duncan passed; but that they’d seen him at all was the giveaway. Alerted, he slowed as he wove among the tables, now knowing why a subtle excitement had filled him on entering the tavern. Too many of these seeming drunks weren’t drunk at all, and he’d have known it from the start if finding the girl hadn’t distracted him. Ears honed, he kept moving, weaving a little, a foolish smile on his face. Touching, holding on to tables and chairs as he went, as if for balance.

. . . October twenty-ninth, near Boulogne-sur-Mer. The Gaillard brothers and O’Keefe— Again, the speakers stopped on seeing him so close. Little wonder, for the names were puppeteer’s strings jerking him to a halt. A glance gave him further information. He forced out a belch, swayed, and grinned at them all before forcing himself to keep walking toward the exit.

What were the odds of two different groups of men being here tonight, discussing people of interest to the British Alien Office, on the exact night and place he’d found the girl? One of the names mentioned was Deville O’Keefe: French mother, Irish father, and a half-rogue operative for the Alien Office. The Gaillard brothers were also Alien Office operatives, but again, their loyalties were always in question. Loose cannons, all three of them.

On passing out into the darkness, Duncan frowned. Something had felt off, not quite right, for days now. Heavily armed soldiers had demanded his credentials to enter Boulogne-sur-Mer, a Channel port fifty miles distant. It seemed he needed written permission from General Soult, Admiral Latouche-Tréville, or First Consul Bonaparte himself. It happened again on every road he’d tried into the town. Semaphore messages from his ship reported the substantial French naval patrols on that part of the Channel, even by night. Soldiers had also challenged his entry on the main road into Abbeville today. They hadn’t been as stringent as at Boulogne, allowing him in after seeing his papers. Yet something about the experience still rankled. Now this.

Something was happening on the Channel Coast. October 29 was only ten weeks off. The White and Red Rose teams in St-Malo and Calais were too well known. His team was new, unknown, so far unnamed (thank God for that; he hated all the classical or romantic code names Zephyr insisted on). His was the only team in the region . . . and the girl was right here at the hub, with every reason to return night after night.

Damp Breeches pushed past him in the night, his friend in his wake. Haughty English bitch. I’ll show her who’s a man.

Duncan sighed.

THE MOON WAS A harvester’s sickle hanging low over the west as Lisbeth left the tavern via the servants’ exit, her eyes hot and itchy, her hands rough and hard from scrubbing floors. The stiff night breeze softened the acrid perfume of spilled wine and wood smoke on her clothes, and cooled the sweat beading her face. Even after a pulsing-hot day, when the night Channel wind hit, it felt almost like winter. Drawing her cloak around her, she bid farewell to Elise . . . at least for the walk back to the place that would never be home. Elise lived in a cramped room in a pension, walked to work and back, took the insults and lower wages. Lisbeth was English to the fingertips, with carriages at her disposal, and home was a converted abbey snug in the rolling fields of Norfolk, with Mama in her sitting room reading or embroidering while her renegade daughter escaped on her spirited roan mare, and poor Ralph chased her on his hack. Give over, Miss Lizzy! Go back to yer ma ’n’ yer lessons. What’d yer da say if he was here?

That was always the question nobody could answer.

As she reached the shadow of St. Vulfran’s, a church again after years of storing either pigs or ammunition, she heard footsteps behind her. Please, God, not again.

Elise, you can’t walk home alone. You need protection.

She pursed her mouth. It seemed LeClerc hadn’t forgiven her for the incident with the beer; the tone was aggressive beneath the persuasiveness. No doubt the second set of footfalls was his ever-present sidekick, Tolbert. Gritting her teeth, she strode on. She’d long ago learned that saying anything to them, even rejection, only encouraged these fools.

Elise, end this foolishness. LeClerc’s rough voice was impatient but held a note of would-be tenderness. We’ve played your game long enough.

In grim determination she walked even faster.

Tolbert puffed as he trotted behind LeClerc. You owe Delacorte no loyalty.

He deserted you and stole your child—but you need not be alone. We want to be so kind to you.

Lisbeth closed her eyes for a moment, fighting the rebel ache, longing for a kind word, a gentle touch. Perhaps they would be kind to me . . . at least until I’m not so young or the novelty of my birth and English blood palls.

They hadn’t been kind in mentioning Edmond. That type of ploy was far too clever for these two . . . but Alain knew how she loved her son.

In the precious minutes she’d held her baby she’d forgotten Edmond’s conception, or how she’d prayed to miscarry at the start; she’d even hoped they could become a family. Then Alain took Edmond and disappeared, leaving her with medical debts and the rent.

What had she done to make Alain hate her so? She’d told him Papa didn’t love her, yet Alain had been furious when Sir Edward Sunderland refused to allow either of them in the door after she’d eloped. By the time she’d discovered the reason Papa would never allow his new son-in-law into his home, it was far too late.

"That’s it, chérie," LeClerc said in an exulting tone, far too close. She must have slowed. Like a fox with hounds on her scent, she hitched up her skirts and bolted.

Booted feet pounded behind her. Jerked back by the hem of her cloak, she fell on the cobblestoned road. A jolt of pain shot up her spine. She couldn’t breathe.

In the muted light of his lantern, LeClerc’s thin, ordinary face came into view, his eyes red rimmed with drink and blazing with excitement. "Come, chérie, it’s over now. Be sweet to us, and you’ll see how good we’ll be in return."

Oh, yes, Alain had taught her all about the goodness of men. She screamed as loud as she could. Not one light went up in response. When LeClerc reached for her, she head-butted him.

"Salope! LeClerc hauled her over his shoulder and carried her, kicking and screaming, to a mossy mound between the cemetery and the church wall. Arrogant chatte, you’ll pay for that, and the ale you threw on me. So you think you’re above us? Here you’re the same as any other girl in the tavern. Liberté, egalité, fraternité. Vive le France!"

The bitter irony tasted like gall. Yes, in post-revolutionary France there was equality and fraternity if you were rich, talented, or French. Liberty was yours if your neighbors didn’t report you to the latest committee or paranoid leader, if you didn’t work with whores by necessity, or—

LeClerc pushed her on her back, and the memory of her last birthday flashed into her brain. Not again, never again! She twisted and kicked, arms flailing. Help me! Rape!

No candle lit in all the row houses across the road. No sound from the presbytery she’d just passed. Echoes of the night at The White Goose were screaming from the abyss of memory.

She’d known all along these idiots worked for Alain, but this was cruel, even for him.

The knife! She pulled it from her cloak, but with a blow to her wrist, LeClerc sent it spinning. With an exasperated huff, he put a cupped hand over her mouth, the other hand pressing his fingers into her throat until she choked, fighting for air. No more tricks, or I’ll really hurt you.

She bunched her hand into a fist, gathering dirt and grass, and threw it in his face.

LeClerc’s blow to her temple sent broken gravestones spinning behind her eyes. Hold her. Tolbert grabbed her arms. LeClerc hitched up her skirts and loosened the tie at his breeches.

Release the lady if you want to live.

CHAPTER 3

Abbeville, France

August 18, 1802

THE GROWLING VOICE CAME from the darkness close by. The unmistakable noise of pistols cocking followed. Tolbert and LeClerc gasped and released their grip on her.

Lisbeth’s eyes snapped open. Was he a figment of her desperate imagining? But Tolbert’s low-lit lantern and the uncertain moonlight illuminated a tall man swathed in a cloak, aiming two pistols at her attackers.

I shoot with both hands equally well. With a subtle Spanish accent, he made her think of the banditti, professional killers. But I don’t have a shovel to bury you. So start running.

Tolbert bolted, tripping over crumbled gravestones, taking the low outer wall at a leap, arms windmilling in an attempt to go faster. LeClerc ran after him, holding his undone breeches with one hand while the other flapped, like a one-winged bird.

The stranger returned his pistols to his cloak pockets. Did they hurt you, madame?

The words barely penetrated the fog in her mind. She couldn’t stop shaking. All she knew was that her bunched-up clothes exposed her to the waist like a harlot. If she still had her pantalets, as a lady of breeding . . .

Pull down your skirts! But her arms remained above her head, refusing to obey her will.

He stooped down. Energized by panic she scrambled back, but he only pulled her dress and her cloak over her. May I see you home?

She stared at him. Beautiful manners. Pure Picardy-Norman French now, with no accent.

Looming over her in the darkest hour of night, he was so big. With the hood pulled down, she couldn’t see his face.

Please tell me you’re not hurt, madame.

Strange concern in his low murmur. Faceless, anonymous, a stranger. I don’t even know his voice, but he called me Madame. Does he know me?

Stupid! Everyone knows you. You’re the only British whore in Abbeville.

The random observations felt like a ship’s log being filled, coming one after the other, adding to her confusion.

Will you let me help you, madame?

That he asked her permission felt like cement slapped over broken bricks: it smoothed the shards of her dignity, yet the cracks remained beneath. All she could manage was jagged breathing, and staring at that faceless space inside the hood.

You’re shivering. Gloved hands divided from his voluminous cloak, reaching to her.

She jerked up and pointed a shaking finger at him. Don’t touch me. She hardly expected obedience. Men never allowed women control: not fathers, brothers, husbands, or even chivalrous, hooded strangers.

Yet without a word he stood, pulled off his cloak, and laid it over her, shrouding her in its warmth. He laid his pistols by her and returned to sit at her feet.

He’d handed her his pistols? Why? She blinked and waited for him to speak, but he seemed content on the ground, waiting for her word to move. With the thin moon fallen behind the Channel, his face was a black silhouette in the dearth of light. Was he the phantom imagining of a desperate girl, an uncertain resemblance of what a gentleman ought to be?

The minutes ticked past while she shivered and he remained silent, waiting.

At last she whispered, Help me.

He got to his feet. I’m coming behind you. Now I’ll put my hands under your arms, so. Are you ready?

Overwhelmed, she could only nod. It hurt her throat, made it hard to breathe.

Touching only her underarms, he lifted her to her feet. When her legs trembled, he murmured, May I carry you to the bench?

After a long moment, tossing up whether speaking would hurt less, she nodded.

He set her on the bench in the belfry’s shadow and wrapped his cloak around her once more. He retrieved his pistols and left them beside her. Are you feeling warmer? If you take a chill, you won’t be able to work tomorrow.

Lisbeth started. He’d been at the tavern? The man in the corner who’d turned from her whenever she approached him?

Why was he treating her as a lady when he’d seen her at work, and had just seen more of her than any stranger ought? How could he expect her trust when he wouldn’t show her his face? Unwanted intimacy, respect, and concern coming from blackness. She wanted to pull her own hood over her face, run away. If she could make her legs obey her.

If only she could be sure LeClerc and Tolbert weren’t waiting for the opportunity.

The stranger sat still, lost in the night. It seemed deliberate. He’d put her in the light while he remained in darkness and silence. She refused to speak first, or play the helpless damsel to this odd Galahad . . . but the silence grew and her curiosity hurt.

Who are you? Do you know me? she whispered at last.

She felt rather than saw his smile: a tiny hummingbird of satisfaction fluttering in the air. You may call me Gaston.

Her mouth turned down as a cold sliver touched her bone. No, I may not, monsieur. Not without ruining what reputation I have.

After a moment, a slow nod came. Then you may call me Monsieur Borchonne.

She frowned at him, doubting. Somehow, despite his perfect accent, he didn’t look French. Or maybe it was the lost Spanish accent? It’s not your real name, is it?

He didn’t answer. Knowing herself to be in the right, she didn’t lower her gaze, but lifted her chin and waited.

Eventually he spoke. You’re still shivering. This may help. He held something out. Squinting, she caught the dull glint of a flask. Brandy’s good for shock.

So is tea, she replied, feeling foolish.

Again she heard the smile in his voice. I know tea is preferable to ladies, but I’m afraid this is all I have.

There was something in his voice, an expectation of obedience. Almost resenting it, she lifted the flask to her mouth. In seconds she spluttered and choked.

A low chuckle. It always happens the first time. Sip slowly, and count to ten.

Saying that—understanding that she hadn’t drunk brandy before when he knew she worked at a tavern—insensibly soothed her. By the time she reached nine, the pain in her throat eased a little. "Merci, monsieur." It was deliberate, leaving out the Borchonne.

She felt his disapproval in the long time it took to say, I have a horse over there. His half-turned face indicated the street. Do you think you could sit astride?

The times she’d been in Mama’s black books for wearing a pair of Leo’s or Andrew’s jodhpurs, and riding astride . . . she forced down a second bubble of laughter, lest he think she’d lost her mind. Yes.

The stranger stood. I’ll fetch him.

She grabbed his jacket. Don’t leave me. Thick broadcloth, warm and functional, a working man’s jacket on a gentleman. The understanding only added to the enigma.

The moment the silence grew painful, he spoke. May I carry you to the horse?

She couldn’t walk, couldn’t bear to be alone, and LeClerc and Tolbert could return with weapons—or God help her, with Alain, given her new suspicions—at any moment. Yes.

He carried her through shadows in the darkest part of night. In the blackness there was only the faint silver of fading stars. When she squeezed her eyes shut, her other senses took over. Warmth and security and her pounding heart, too many impressions too fast, overwhelming.

She was tall, but he dwarfed her. His clothes smelled clean, his skin fresh. No reek from beneath his arms. His breath smelled of peppermint water and hazelnut wood. She knew both scents from Mama’s obsession with avoiding the dentist to have her teeth drawn. He’d probably rinsed his mouth and used a twig to clean his teeth.

The information clicked like a cog into a wheel. Rough clothes, but newly washed. Clean teeth, sweet breath.

Her arm around his neck, she felt the unevenness to his shoulders. It felt unnatural. An injury? Was he a soldier? Naval officer?

A horse nickered nearby. The stirrup is by your left foot, madame.

All by feel, she slid her foot into the stirrup, found the pommel, twisted her body around, and swung up. When he untied his horse, she took the reins and covered her bare legs with her cloak.

She looked at him. He was looking down at her hands. His hair was thick and dark, tied naval style with a riband. "The trembling is much less. Trés bien. I see you like horses. You mounted astride perfectly."

A misbegotten youth, she said with a chuckle. How could a stranger keep making her want to laugh, when he seemed so serious, and she’d barely even wanted to smile in the past year?

Without answering, the stranger steered the horse in the direction of her street. He stopped the horse on the uneven cobblestones in front of the pension on the rue Jeanne d’Arc.

He knows where I live. The scales of knowledge were too one-sided, too personal. Though her hands were still cold, her palms turned sweaty.

A room above them had a candle burning by the window, too soft to see him as he came around to the other side. He didn’t lift his head, showing only his dark hair, the riband. He must have been in France for some time, to understand the danger of those who watched, listened. Can you dismount unaided?

She scrambled off the horse on the wrong side rather than let him touch her again and hit the ground with a shock in her feet. With a gasp she leaned on the wall of the pension, fingers digging into the mortar. The bulging cement with globs of plaster laid over to strengthen the painted wooden beams supporting the medieval house was cold to the touch, and she shivered.

You need warm gloves, madame. Barely a whisper.

I—forgot them today. Pot-valiant lie—but she couldn’t rely on an eccentric Galahad who saw too much and gave too little. If he had gloves in his pocket, she didn’t want them.

She handed him his cloak without looking at his unshielded face. Discretion was the only gift she could give in return for all he’d done tonight. Thank you for your rescue, your cloak, and your escort, monsieur.

Those men won’t give up. He pulled the cloak on, the hood down. I can teach you to use that knife to greater effect.

So he was coming back. That meant he wanted something from her—then she sucked in a breath. The knife isn’t mine. Monsieur Marron will take it from my wages, and I can’t—

Madame. When she looked up, he was holding the knife’s hilt out to her.

A year ago, her greatest fear was Papa’s arranged betrothal of her to a rich nobleman she’d never met. Now her life was reduced to avoiding unwanted attention, and worrying over the cost of a knife. Feeling small and stupid, Lisbeth mumbled, You’ve been a godsend tonight.

All this is unworthy of you, he said quietly. You’re a baronet’s daughter. Don’t you want everything you left behind? Don’t you long to go home?

Like fog rolling in from the river, sorrow enveloped her. Her rescuer had just inflicted more pain on her than any LeClerc or Tolbert could give. How could he speak so casually of returning to England, when she’d give her life’s blood to go home?

He burned my identity papers, she muttered, thoroughly trained in controlling every emotion around men during the past year. A man legally owns his wife. With soldiers posted on every road, I can’t even leave Abbeville without his permission.

A moment’s silence. What had she said to grab his attention? Then another whisper: hooded temptation, anonymous desire. You can. Just say the word. I can take you home.

Home . . . oh, the careless wound. Her sharp-drawn breath hurt her chest, like a thin dagger thrust. Yearning engulfed her, the hopes and dreams she’d buried since waking from a drugged sleep to find herself in France. To ride the fields of Barton Lynch once more . . . Mama scolding lovingly, always trying to make her hoyden daughter a lady . . .

He’d said home as if it was his home, too. So his name and both his accents had been a lie. After the past year, she refused to put her life in the hands of any man. And there was Edmond. No. She pushed off the wall and headed on unsteady feet for the door of the pension.

How long have those men been following you?

Unwilling to answer, she owed him this honesty at least. She kept her back to him. Since I began at Le Boeuf they’ve been propositioning me, touching me . . . following me.

I can end that problem, if you’ll trust me.

She almost laughed in his face. Trust? How stupid. No, he didn’t know her.

Seventeen months ago she’d been an ingénue in pretty gowns and pearls, in London for the Season. With a smile and curtsy, she’d accepted dances with men she regarded as gentlemen because Mama said they were. Because they dressed the part, could speak the part, and made an elegant bow. The greatest judgment she’d made was on their looks, if they could dance, if their breath was sweet or rank, or if they’d flattered her enough. Boring fribbles that wanted her inheritance, the daughter of the wealthiest baronet in Norfolk, just as other men wanted her friend Georgy because she was a duke’s daughter. The two of them had played tricks on those men, banded together against their matchmaking parents, and generally brewed mischief.

Now she was a fallen woman who’d made stupid choices she had to live with.

Turning to the door with its peeling green paint and ancient oak showing beneath, she tried to keep her voice even. Thank you, but no. You’ve done more than enough.

I’ll be outside Le Boeuf tomorrow night.

No man could be as kind and disinterested without wanting something. She stared into the hood, fathomless darkness where a face should be. I’d prefer it if you were not—tomorrow or any night. I may be beholden to you, but I am not like the other women at Le Boeuf.

You owe me nothing, and I ask nothing. Quiet, yet spoken with a hardness that made Lisbeth gasp and step back, and he softened. I beg your pardon, madame.

With difficulty, she nodded. Go on, she murmured.

"If I can’t come to you, one of my men will do so. He’ll use the word Tidewatcher."

She blinked and tilted her head, frowning. What—tidewatcher? What does that mean?

"Bonsoir, madame." Before she could recoil he’d come around the horse, bowed over her hand, and, taking the horse’s reins, slipped into the night.

She stared into the predawn emptiness, dark gray as his cloak. Had it been a dream? The thick curls of morning river mist added to the sense of unreality. If she’d stayed home, she’d be a future baroness, established in London’s haut ton, surrounded by friends and family. Instead—

She could hear Alain’s gloating voice. Happy birthday, ma chère. Remember last year?

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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (3/5)
    Summary: Duncan is an experienced spy for the British, known to most of his associates only as Tidewatcher. Duncan's masters know that Napoleon's up to something along the channel coast, but no one's sure exactly what, and it's Duncan's job to find out. In his attempts to do so, he encounters Lisbeth, a young English noblewoman who ran off to France with a dashing husband who later turned cruel and manipulative, leaving her stranded but under his power, as he holds her infant son hostage to her good behavior. Lisbeth is perfectly placed for Duncan's needs - the American inventor Robert Fulton is working on a submersible craft that would allow Duncan to secretly scout out French naval movements and enter occupied cities, but Fulton doesn't much like the British, and is threatening to sell his plans to the French. But Lisbeth, working as Fulton's maid, could help persuade him, and thereby turn the tide for Britain, but how can Duncan ask her to risk entering the world of espionage when she's already been through so much?Review: I really, really wanted to like this book more than I actually did, which is frustrating, and more frustrating still is that I can't quite put my finger on what about it I didn't like. It's set in a time period that I find interesting: check. It's got a good story, with plenty of twists and turns: check. It's got an exciting plot with espionage, chases, narrow escapes, action, and adventure: check. It's well written, with a nice balance of detailed description and action and dialogue in very smooth and elegant prose: check. It's got multidimensional characters: check. So I should have been all over this book, right?The issue was that I just didn't really care about the characters (with an exception of Duncan's half brothers, who I quite liked and wished we got to spend more time with). It's not that they felt flat, exactly - they are interestingly layered - but I never got emotionally invested in their problems, which made the book more slow going than it should have been. Part of this is maybe because I could tell the general shape of the plot, from both reading other historical fiction, and from knowing actual history - of course Napoleon is not going manage to invade Britain, and it's a good bet that our heroes are going to be a part of thwarting his plans. But even on the fictional side, I had a hard time getting invested. Can Lisbeth learn to risk her heart again? Will Duncan deal with his issues about family and identity? Yes to both, but these and questions like them never drew me in with much urgency - and urgency is not something that you want to be lacking in your spy novels. 3 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: The story's well woven and well written but I didn't find it particularly compelling, although other readers that are drawn to this time period might connect with the characters and the story more than I was able to.
  • (4/5)
    I received this book from the Early Reviewers giveaway. I enjoy historical fiction, so this book was a good one for me. I do not know a lot about the history aspects of this novel. It was a good learning experience for me, as well as an interesting read. I would like to know more about the characters in the novel and what happens to them.
  • (3/5)
    I kinda struggled to get through this book, which was centered around espionage during the Napoleonic Wars. The characters were intriguing - I enjoyed Duncan as he developed and I sympathized with Lisbeth, although I did get tired of her being described as a lady. Still, I felt like the plot didn't all fit together quite neatly enough and the secondary characters lacked the definition they needed. Read this if you're a dedicated fan of Napoleonic-era historical fiction.
  • (4/5)
    The Tide Watchers is part spy novel, part adventure novel, part history lesson and a little bit of romance. It takes place in England and France during Napoleon’s rise. Our hero is in France trying to learn what he can about the soon to be Emperor’s plans and to try and find his employer’s daughter, Lisbeth. She ran away with a French emigre against the wishes of her parents and he did not turn out to be the romantic man she thought he was so now she finds herself working at a tavern and branded a whore by all in the town.Duncan finds Lisbeth and realizes she could be a help on his mission but is a little reluctant to put her in danger. Lisbeth is not like any other woman he has ever met; she is intelligent, forthright and she speaks her mind. She agrees to work with Duncan and then she wants to go home.The story is a good one and the writing kept me very engaged. There is a lot of history to draw from in this time period and Ms. Chaplin weaves her fictional players in with historical characters very well. I will admit to feeling at times in the beginning like I dropped into the second book of a series but I soon figured out who everyone was. I believe the author was trying to slowly release information about her characters but it left me a bit confused at times. My biggest complaint and the reason for the 3.5 rating instead of a 4 is the ending. It was obscenely abrupt. In fact I wondered if my advance reading copy was missing a chapter it was that jarring an ending. I am guessing there will be a sequel – if not so much was left hanging it was really crazy. I understand leaving the readers anxious for another book but this was more than that – it truly felt like information was missing.
  • (4/5)
    I received the Tide Watchers by Lisa Chaplin as a part of LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program. I was very intrigued about with the description of the book. It takes place during the early 1800s at a time when peace between Britain and France is very tenuous. Lisbeth a young daughter of an English baronet risks her life as a spy to help stop Napoleon’s invasion of Great Britain with the hopes of rescuing her young son from the clutches of her abusive husband. I thought the story was very compelling and interesting. The book flows pretty well and the story is constantly moving. My history facts about this time period are a bit shaky but I thought that for the most part it seemed historically accurate. At times it was easy for me to forget that some of the characters were fictional. I thought the author did a good job blending the two. It seems that this book may lead to a sequel and I would probably be interested in reading that as well.
  • (3/5)
    This one is tough to review. The whole premise of the story is very interesting. I usually like historical fiction. The characters were not one dimensional and you actually had to think about whether they were even good people and doing the right things or not. And I like when everything is not black and white. There is a lot of action and suspense. And a story about the first submarine is just cool. But I didn’t really like the book. I didn’t like the main characters as people and found them uninteresting as characters. I didn’t care what happened to them. And the plot, that should have been extremely compelling, was strangely not. Despite all the good components it was never hard to put down and I was never very eager to pick it back up. And the abrupt ending was less of an ending than a ‘tune in next week’ cliffhanger. To write this review I had to skim through the book again because soon after I finished reading it I had forgotten it completely.
  • (4/5)
    I really wanted to rate it higher. I like the characters overall, I like the setting, I like the premise. It drug a little at the end when she was trying to get so much in. Feels like there will be another book to follow.
  • (4/5)
    Suspenseful espionage novel set mainly in Napoleonic France, with a feisty, down-to-earth, clever heroine. Lisbeth Sunderland, daughter of a baronet, to escape a hated marriage, elopes with a charming Frenchman and returns to France. Subsequently she discovers the hateful persona hidden under his mask of elegance and suaveness. He takes their baby son and deserts her; she is reduced to working as a tavern maid. With promises to retrieve her son and to return them to England, she agrees to help Duncan, a "King's Man", or spy: codename Tidewatcher. Under his direction she infiltrates the house of Robert Fulton, eccentric American inventor of a type of submarine, as housekeeper and apprentice. Lisbeth and Duncan set out to foil plots of Napoleon's invasion of England and of the king's assassination. "Boney" has already survived a failed assassination, himself. There are several different subplots. The story really didn't pick up steam for me till about p. 147. Amid episodes and dialogue that displayed the author's genuine talent, there were long stretches of confusing action. For instance, I saw no point to the Lady Georgiana subplot. There were other instances I felt the novel could have been shortened and tightened up.I liked both hero and heroine, also Mark, the Cockney cabin boy. The story just ... ended. Perhaps the author has a sequel in the works? Recommended.
  • (4/5)
    Should Lisbeth become a spy in order to save her child from a maniac?Lisbeth's husband abandons her and takes thier child, she is left alone and penniless in a foreign country to fend for herself. Afraid to stray too far from her newborn for fear it would be seen abandonment, she takes a job serving in a local tavern. It is there she encounters Gaston Borchonne, AKA Duncan (if that is really even his name) who promises to reunite her with her son. Gaston/Duncan seems to know a lot about her… his only request is that she become a spy, just like her father. England needs to gain the help of American inventor, Robert Fulton and his submersible ship before France gets it first. That is where Lisbeth comes in…I had a hard time following the start of the story; it seemed a bit choppy and jumped around a bit for me however it did finally settle down as I had a hard time putting it down. I began to get pulled into the story and again towards the end it lost me for a bit, then got me back and then abruptly ended! (and I mean abruptly) In the end it was also a rollercoaster of emotions about whether I liked the characters—some I grew to like, some I hated, some I liked only to find I was not supposed to… which I guess is a good thing?! It was also really hard to keep track of who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. I really disliked the ending which leaves me with a rather bad taste in my mouth and accounts for a lower rating than I would like to give. I understand that it was probably done with a sequel in mind but still—- not cool. And one whole storyline (Georgy)... I can only assume will come into play in the sequel because it was relatively useless. Would I recommend it—not sure… maybe once the sequel is out and it all comes together—hopefully?
  • (4/5)
    Early 19th century espionage, historical fiction featuring battles of wits between France, Britain and a bright, albeit not so willing 19 year old woman who stands in the midst of posturing men and through cleverness may yet save the day. Of course there's a ruggedly handsome brooding ship's commander eager to catch her and save her from certain death. But our heroine proves fierce and capable. The story's twists, turns, clever contraptions and long list of well-known historic characters keeps the reader engaged and hanging on for dear life. It's an exciting tale and the fictional characters are so well melded in among the historical greats that it could almost be believable. But don't take my word for it. Wander for yourself into 1803 France yet trust no one...I am grateful to author Lisa Chaplin, Harper Collins Publishers and LibraryThing Early Reviewers for having provided a free copy of an uncorrected proof of this book. Their generosity did not, however, influence this review - the words of which are mine alone. Synopsis (from book's back cover):In the tradition of Jennifer Robson, comes this compelling debut that weaves the fascinating story of a young woman who must risk her life as a spy to help stop Napoleon’s invasion of Great Britain in the winter of 1803.Though the daughter of an English baronet, Lisbeth has defied convention by eloping to France with her new husband. But when he breaks her heart by abandoning her, she has nowhere to turn and must work in a local tavern. Her only hope for the future is to be reunited with her young son who is being raised by her mother-in law.A seasoned spy known by his operatives as Tidewatcher, Duncan apprenticed under Lisbeth’s father and pledged to watch over his mentor’s only daughter while he searches the Channel region for evidence that Bonaparte has built a fleet to invade Britain. But unpredictable Lisbeth challenges his lifelong habit of distance.Eccentric, brilliant American inventor Robert Fulton is working on David Bushnell’s “turtle”—the first fully submersible ship—when he creates brand-new torpedo technology, which he plans to sell to the French Navy. But when his relationship with Bonaparte sours, he accepts Tidewatcher’s help to relocate to the French side of the Channel, but he refuses to share his invention. With an entire army encamped in the region, blocking off all access, Tidewatcher must get that submersible, along with someone who knows how to use it, to uncover Bonaparte’s great secret.When Lisbeth is asked to pose as a housekeeper and charm Fulton so she can learn to use the submersible before the invasion fleet sails, she will be forced to sacrifice herself for her country—but is she willing to sacrifice her heart when she’s already lost it to another…?
  • (4/5)
    The Tide Watchers is part spy novel, part adventure novel, part history lesson and a little bit of romance. It takes place in England and France during Napoleon’s rise. Our hero is in France trying to learn what he can about the soon to be Emperor’s plans and to try and find his employer’s daughter, Lisbeth. She ran away with a French emigre against the wishes of her parents and he did not turn out to be the romantic man she thought he was so now she finds herself working at a tavern and branded a whore by all in the town.Duncan finds Lisbeth and realizes she could be a help on his mission but is a little reluctant to put her in danger. Lisbeth is not like any other woman he has ever met; she is intelligent, forthright and she speaks her mind. She agrees to work with Duncan and then she wants to go home.The story is a good one and the writing kept me very engaged. There is a lot of history to draw from in this time period and Ms. Chaplin weaves her fictional players in with historical characters very well. I will admit to feeling at times in the beginning like I dropped into the second book of a series but I soon figured out who everyone was. I believe the author was trying to slowly release information about her characters but it left me a bit confused at times. My biggest complaint and the reason for the 3.5 rating instead of a 4 is the ending. It was obscenely abrupt. In fact I wondered if my advance reading copy was missing a chapter it was that jarring an ending. I am guessing there will be a sequel – if not so much was left hanging it was really crazy. I understand leaving the readers anxious for another book but this was more than that – it truly felt like information was missing.